After a year of weekly shuttles between CDG and ARN, I would never waste a chance to go to Taiwan and my manager knew it very well. Matrix suggested this array of routings: the mandate of my company’s travel agency is to privilege direct flights, but there is room for negotiation if a non-direct flight is cheaper.
Air China for 2047 EUR? Adding a hot night to my expense claim and reaching my destination one day later would be a hard sell.
Hainan Airlines would have optimized the 72 hour Chinese visa exemption in XIY, and given me a chance to visit again thoroughly Xi’an, but could I really take four days to reach TPE on Friday afternoon, just in time for the week-end there ?
China Eastern’s option meant spending five hours in their disappointing lounge in PVG on the way out, without a chance for a brief encounter with local friends since it would be a working day. On the way back, I would need to recover my checked luggage, go through the immigration (using the visa exemption) and transit from SHA to PVG: I know Shanghai and its airports well enough to worry about it, but it is nevertheless long and tiring.
The choice narrows therefore down very quickly to Eva Air’s direct flights. I dislike reaching a LH destination in the early morning, but this was an opportunity to test this airline on a long haul flight. BR had only three weekly flights to CDG five years ago, and they were very expensive: the preferred routing was then AF or CX via HKG. AF has obviously abandoned the idea of selling flights to TPE: the listed price is now 50% than that of BR in Business, and nearly double in Economy!
You may now that BR operates some flights to/from CDG with 77Ws in Hello Kitty livery: it would have been more fun, but the Tuesday flight from CDG is in standard livery. Departing from CDG on Monday January 1st would have required explaining to my wife that I would skip the New Year lunch with Mom-in-law for the sole purpose of flying in a Hello Kitty jet: this was a non-starter.
After a Flight-Reporter’s research, my choice narrowed to the flight that I would have had if I had simply asked to our travel agency “a round trip flight to Taipei departing on January 2nd”, like most of colleagues would do.
Once my ticket had been issued, I was not going to be impressed by this statement of the travel agency, deep inside the maze of fare conditions:
Seats assigned by the airline during check-in
No kidding… I only needed to go on BR’s website to select a seat on this diagram. The graphic design is not fancy, but all useful information is there ; note in particular that BR plays it fair with window seat addicts like me the seats which are overwing and/or without a window. There is none in Business class, but few airlines deliver this kind of information. Seat 3A, on the left side, therefore not in the sun’s direction on that flight, seemed to be a good option for me.
The description of the catering by the same travel agency was terse : “Type of Meal : Meal”
There again, I only needed to go on BR’s website to find a much more detailed information :
Eva Air also proposes special meals. Note that there is no kosher meal (this was the best AF special meal on CDG-ARN), because there is no domestic market since there are only a few hundred Jews in Taiwan. Muslims are also not that many in Taiwan, mostly Indonesian migrant workers who are not travelling to Europe.
This is my first long haul trip on BR and I doubt I’ll have a chance to taste the eight hot meals before they change the menu. The seafood meal was a serious option for me, but I doubt this would be enough to justify another business trip to TPE. I chose the Spicy Scallops in Royal Style Served with Steamed Rice. Note that you can choose to not have a meal, or make a choice in flight between the default choices.
The first two choices for breakfast have already been praised by Flight Reporters, so I could only choose the Chinese Plain Congee, a quintessential local breakfast. Note that Eva Air also provides a facility to be warned in case a preselected meal not available.
D Day came ; the taxi ride from Paris was exceptionally fast all the way to CDG : the school vacations were not over yet, nobody leave on vacation the day after a week-end and there would presumably be few business travelers on the first working day of the year.
The taxi drop off zone at terminal 1 which is outrageously undersized was nevertheless somewhat jammed and the taxi driver cursed both this design and the illegal presence of Uber cars. (She was a lady, a rarity in that trade, with a pleasant Portuguese accent).
This was not a broken window, but a decorative wind breaker at the entrance of the terminal, just after the double automatic doors. Nice, but a possible nuisance in peak travel days.
I had been dropped just next to the Eva Air check in counters, by pure chance.
A mild mannered staff, here right, was filtering the access to the J/Elite check in counters with a name list.
Slightly less smile, but just as much efficiency for the staff at the check in counter. My 19 kg suitcase was just below half of the 40 kg checked luggage allowance for business travelers on this flight.
Some meager Christmas decorations landside at Departures level
For plane spotting landside, the place to be is the Arrivals level, because it is two floors further up, high enough to provide a view on the tarmac around the central building Arrival of a Flybe E-195 Flybe in special livery
An AF A340 is towed to an unknown destination
Good news : the Eva Air 77W is already there, but I can see its tail only.
I have a special liking for the special livery of this Brussel Airlines A320
Another Brussel Airlines A320, in standard livery
Eurowings A320, with a Hop! Embraer in the background
Singapore Airlines 777-300ER
In the background, on both sides of the CDG-VAL people mover line, the French Air Force long haul passenger aircraft are at rest at their usual parking places.
With three A310 : F-RADA, F-RADB et F-RADC
And an A340 : F-RAJB
United Airlines 767-400 in Star Alliance livery
Thai Airways A380
Pushback of a Eurowings A320
After this 360 degree scan of the horizon, I went up the famous Terminal 1 tubes
No waiting at the passport check : there was no passenger neither at the automated gates, nor at the manual gates which were the faster option.
Since there are zero windows in the circular corridor, no need to linger there
I go the Star Alliance lounge
A friendly welcome by the staff at the entrance desk facing this newspaper stand along the wall – a rather standard layout.
What is substandard is the outside view : you see this
…just before going down to the lower level where there is no window
The only open air space is this tiny smoker’s yard, designed like a prison exercise yard, including an anti-helicopter evasion netting overhead.
The lounge itself had of course no window whatsoever, but provided adequate uncrowded space.
The offering of food did not go beyond minimal requirement : bread and pastries
Salad, cheese and cold cuts
Fruits and yoghurts
There is muesli, but since I did not know what I would find, I had eaten a serving before leaving home.
The desserts are no better than those in ARN’s Terminal 2 lounge.
I am going to finish two hot meals out of three !
A standard coffee machine
Good news : there were Type E/F power ports behind the sofa where I took a seat. It was alongside a mirrored partition wall into which I took this picture.
Bad news, this pair of power ports and the next pair on the other side were not powered. I mentioned that to the staff at the welcome desk when leaving: she was writing down something and was obviously uninterested in that piece of information.
A magazine stand
The wifi internet connection was reasonably easy and the throughput was OK.
The toilets were clean, but the cover of the flush control here was gone (reflections hide that, but it looked a lot less good in real life)
One urinal out of three was out of use
Boarding time approached: I left the lounge, without paying interest to these duty-free shops that I am never interested in.
Long walk on a travellator under the tarmac to Satellite 5. Not using the travellator is a bad idea, because you eventually reach stairs which can’t be seen from the other end.
Terminal 1’s boarding satellites are notoriously spotter-unfriendly with regards to the plane that you are going to board, and this one was no exception to the rule.
TF-GAY, a Wow Air A330, taxies by
Since I could not recharge my laptop in the lounge, maybe I could do it at the boarding gate ?
You could imagine that this plug, in front of my seat or the one which was next my seat would be powered.
Wrong: these plugs are for decorative purposes only. The only powered port in the vicinity was at the foot of this couple of passengers far left, and if they read this report, I thank them once again for plugging in (and then back) my laptop’s cord which was just long enough.
J/Elite boarding begins at Gate 54, and Economy at Gate 55.
A selection of newspapers in ideograms, but there is Le Figaro (France) at the far end.
Door shot for fans
Another door shot for addicts to this equipment which as essential on the ground as it is useless in flight.
And then, suddenly, like if a door had opened into another world, there is a hubbub in Mandarin with this so peculiar Taiwanese accent which instantly brings me back to an island that I left already four and half years earlier. Sure, Taiwanese friends came to Paris since then and Mrs. Marathon has displayed a lot of understanding during long conversations when she did not understand much, but it was not quite the same. (If needed, refer to the bonus of this FR to understand my relationship with Taiwan) Once this long moment of emotion was gone, let’s have a look at my seat : aviation geeks will have recognized a Zodiac Aerospace Cirrus (I cheated and reviewed this report (in French) before flying)
It is a window seat, and even a two window seat, but it is unfortunately very far from these windows, further from them than if I had been sitting in a middle seat in Economy.
Couples like this one do not have much of a choice : they must either be together in the center,
… or strictly separated from each other if one of them wants a window seat, because the window and center seats are misaligned to minimize the visual communication across the aisles.
Once everybody was seated, calm prevailed in the cabin, but during the flight (mercifully not too often), I had a regular reminder of the jerk on flight, i.e. Mrs PAX5D. Mrs PAX5D was traveling with young PAX5A, her 5 year old son who was very quiet, unlike his mother. She kept addressing him with a sound level which could have handled him if he had been at Seat 1K. She also talked to the FAs exclusively in French, demanding U-NE FOUR-CHET-TE ! , separating each syllable and so loud that the whole cabin would know she needed a fork. (Eva Air oddly names D and G the center seats, which does not stand for Gauche ("left" in French) and Droite = "right"; it was probably aggravating for Mrs PAX5D)
I bet one TWD that Mrs PAX5D was an expat wife, gone home with her son during the Christmas break while her husband was working (Christmas is not a bank holiday in Taiwan, but January 1st is one), and was coming back to Tianmu 天母, the expats neighborhood that I stayed away from when I was working in Taipei. (When you have kids of school age, you can’t avoid living close to the international schools, but this was not my case). No she was not the lady in this picture; her seat was one row further front.
Let’s revert to the cabin layout: The table tray in two parts deploys from a slit: it is quite large, but too high for comfortable use of my laptop – I guess that the designer was taller than I am.
The various controls are directly accessible when you are seated, and the power port was on from boarding onward.
I did not use the headphones.
Eva Air offers a pajama to their J customers : there are two sizes (M and L). I found the quality good
The contents are nothing special, but the amenity kit is offered in a neat Rimowa semi-rigid mini case. I find it pretty, but the pleating prevents opening it flat, which I find inconvenient. I may well use some surgery on it when I am back home.
The safety card both sides
You may have noticed the wifi logo on the aircraft door ; these are the fees for use. For confidentiality reasons, working in an aircraft is very poorly thought of in my company, so I had no legitimate reason for adding that to my expenses claim.
Few passengers could claim to not have enough space for their legs when seated.
The coat hook
The carpet was clean
The FAs knelt systematically to the level of the passengers at each individual interaction with them.
Welcome drink and oshibori on a tray
Over 90 cm between my seat back and the surface of the screen: I definitely did not have the arm long enough to use the touchscreen features while being comfortably seated. The seat designer must have been a volleyball player in his youth.
I measured the screen diagonal to be 15", which is not all that large due to the distance from the eyes.
It did not show that much with daylight, but the ceiling is full of tiny LEDs to give the impression of a starry sky at night.
The menu is bilingual English – Chinese : this is the complete copy of the English pages
A glimpse of the cockpit during boarding: the captain of course eventually shut the door
The jetbridge separated from the aircraft and pushback started promptly
The safety demonstration was on a dance theme – a pleasant variation.
My readers who are experienced travelers probably already knew it ( ?), but that was when I learnt that “flight mode” translates into飛航模式 in Chinese.
The ground staff performed his traditional dance
… while the safety demonstration continued on their own traditional dance.
The TG A380 would need a paint job
She looks like an aircraft in long term storage
The right side is no better
Norwegian Long Haul 787
United Airlines 767
United Airlines 787, both sides
A321 Lufthansa at her gate and Turkish Airlines A330 under tow
The tracks and Terminal 1’s station of the CDG-VAL people mover
A330 XL Airways (quite blurry) and the rear of a Transavia737
Royal Air Maroc 737
La Compagnie 757-200
Last sight of the United787
Arrival of a Turkish Airlines737
Our plane aligned on the long Runway 9R much further down it than planes which have taxied from terminal 2, which precluded any view on Terminal 1 once aloft. An American Airlines 787 while still on the ground.
We were already at the level of the maintenance and freight areas when we became airborne
Le Bourget Airport (LBG), dedicated to business flights. The low cloud ceiling does not provide much hope for landscapes on route
This was the scenery at the end of the climb
The prelude (sic) : Port Wine Foie Gras Shrimp with Mango Salsa
A three centimeter diameter : the prelude is piano. I am no specialist of foie gras, but I was not impressed by this one.
I liked the design of the tablecloth which was then laid on the table tray.
There came a break in the cloud cover : where were we ?
This is a good time in this report to berate the moving map in an Eva Air 77W.
It is similar to that of a Finnair A330 in Economy (report here in French) with a single non-interactive program which cycles alternatingly in Chinese and English versions.
Like in the Finnair A330 geovision, the position of the aircraft was regularly masked by loosely related tourist pictures. (“This is what you could see in the location we hide from you” seems to be the message there)
With a geovision designed in the 2010’s, i.e. with interactivity, I would have identified Lake Constance immediately
Friedrichshafen Airport (FDH) is in the center of this picture, partly hidden by clouds
Konstanz, on the German side of the border with Switzerland, nearly entirely on the right bank of the Rhine river which flows into the Untersee at the far left of the picture.
Let4s go back to the meal service : the FAs wore an apron to protect their uniform. They were many for handling the J cabin : I once counted seven FAs simultaneously present in my front J cabin!
The trolley was covered by a decorative cloth
A glass of water (because I did not want to drink anything else – I actually drank both plain and sparkling water), on the table cloth, with the napkin containing the silverware
This was the silverware, but since the FAs would take them away at the end of each course, I eventually used four fork and knife sets.
The accessories : bread, butter (listed as being from Isigny, a renowned dairy town in Normandy), salad dressing with balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.
Mayonnaise Crab Cake There was some more to eat there, which I liked better than the previous course.
I chose another piece of bread from the basket offered by a FA who then placed it upside down in this cup whose shape was unfit to the purpose (it took her several tries, but try doing it yourself, with handling clamps a meter away from the cup)
Placing bread upside down is an old no-no in French dining etiquette and I put it back into the correct position the minute the FA had left. (In medieval times, the executioner’s bread was baked separately and identified this way). If they do it again on the flight back, I’ll remember to improve their cultural know-how and tell them.
The airshow displays the great circle route which is unrelated with the actual route of this flight which passes south of the Himalaya.
We were now around there
… and there came a brief snowy Austrian mountains landscape though a break in the cloud cover
Ginger and Carrot Soup (and some croutons)
The plate is large, but it has been designed to contain little, but the soup is anyway not the main dish, only a pleasant intermediate course.
Mixed Salad Served with Balsamic Artichoke Dressing (the other option was Whisky Cocktail Dressing). There was too much mozzarella for me.
Now I reached the dish I had booked in advance and was not part of the standard catering available on board : Spicy Scallops in Royal Style Served with Steamed Rice In the world of Chinese gastronomy, the word "spicy" should be treated with respect. I am quite invulnerable in this regard, this dish was another proof of it, but I know people who would have had problems finishing it.
The offering of cheese, fruit, ice creams and other desserts, on the trolley that the FAs kindly pushed back to help me take this picture.
I chose a simple plate of fruit. It is very chic to spend lots of time dining, and this meal lasted 80 minutes according to my pictures’ time stamping, which was double the amount of time it deserved. It seemed that the duration was stretched to ease the boredom of the passengers (especially if they relied on the IFE’s offering), but I spent a total of 40 minutes using my laptop between each course, using to my advantage the size of the table tray to make space for it.
The FAs distributed a 50cl bottle of water to each at the end of the meal
A reader of a previous report explained to me that bottles of water on board could be part of the leftover ones from another unrelated flight and therefore be eventually used halfway across the planet. It’s fair to assume that Flight BR87 from Taipei had few Business class passengers on January 1st, but the labelling betrays the fact that this Taiwanese water company procured this drink water from Fiji Island. Granted, the Taiwanese famers sometimes complain about a season too dry for crops selected for their need for water, but whoever tries to convince me that Taiwan has a drink water supply problem will fight an uphill battle (hills are really very humid mountains in Taiwan).
Eva Air communication department requests their passengers to not waste the supplies in the toilets to protect our environment, but I wish they talked with their purchasing department on this issue. (You would probably write it as a request rather than a statement in English: they chose a literal translation from the original Chinese)
This is a sample of the said supplies : the one that I used several times like most Eva Air passengers to help the environment.
And these which I only took out for the purpose of the environment, putting them back into place thereafter to help the environment (Eva Air doesn’t say if most of their passengers do that too). There were also wrapped oshiboris.
Soap and others
The toilets at the rear of the first J cabin are much large than the ones in the AF A32x that I was used it : over 1.30 m wide, which makes it possible to have a full door opening outward instead of the folding door opening inward.
There is no female pictogram on the child care fold down table
It uses all 90 cm of depth of the toilets and folds on top of the toilet seat, hidden below right here.
I found the fake wood floor more pleasant than the typical non-slip surfaces which are more usual there.
A pretty floral decoration, made double by the mirror
Wham ! a bid bag of rubbish fell and spilled some of its contents on the floor. Nobody is perfect !
Let’s charitably turn our back on this mishap and look at the cabin from the rear.
Damn… if the window had been closer to my seat, I would have seen this Turkish Airlines 77W flying in the opposite direction sooner, and had time to zoom more on it. This was IST-JFK Flight TK1, operated by TC-JJG
Drinks and food items for self-service in the galley
Night has arrived, revealing the starry ceiling which would be turned off later.
The time had come to take some rest. The seat is full flat.
I did not sleep for a long time – two and half hours only – because I was too hot. We are only there into the flight, in Chinese version
… and in English version
… with an intermediate corporate ad which reduced by the corresponding time the duration of display of the moving map.
A FA proposed a menu of various items ; I chose one somewhat at random
This was supposed to be the Mini Chicken Burger
The captain tended to forget switching off the « fasten seatbelts » sign, long after leaving an area of turbulences.
This did not stop the passengers from using the toilets
Turbulences are at last over officially !
I then took a nap for another two and half hours and was gently awaken by a FA for breakfast (the FA had asked at the beginning of the flight if I wanted to be awaken for meals).We had entered the Chinese airspace in the south of Yunnan.
You remember that I had chosen Plain Chinese Congee for breakfast. Congee is strictly speaking this : a soup of overcooked rice, not the most attractive dish you could think of.
Of course, it all depends on the ingredients that you add to it. There is nothing more Taiwanese than filaments of dried pork meat (below left, to be mixed with the congee, because you could easily choke if you ate it alone. Tofu skin 豆腐皮 (right)also belongs to my favorite ingredients.
This was actually the quintessential Taiwanese breakfast, the kind that helps you climb mountains from my local experience.
Some omelet and meat
Fruits come thereafter
It was nearly a sacrilege to drink coffee with this breakfast, all the more that my readers may remember that there is nothing worse than bad Taiwanese coffee (I had forgotten this detail).
I really liked the pattern of this tablecloth, a welcome change from the usual white cotton tablecloth. The fabric slips easily on the table tray, but any plate placed on it will keep it in place. The rotational symmetry of the pattern allows the FA to not align it precisely: this and that makes it fast to put in place while being attractive : this is a neatly designed accessory.
I liked this pair of chopsticks too.
A welcome oshibori after the coffee which was not a very good choice (but the breakfast was very tasty)
A little walk around to discover the small front right galley (the space on the left is the access to the cockpit, and there is a toilet too).
The door from the inside
The airmap, overlaid on a satellite picture of the Earth at night, now shows the nearly entire actual route. It seems nearly straight on such a flat map, but it is nowhere near the great circle hypothetical trajectory.
We’ll fly above 香港 ([xiānggǎng], in Mandarin)
… that Westerners know under a name derived from the Cantonese pronunciation : Hong-Kong.
Well to the north of the route, Shaoguan that my readers know from reading the bonus of the report of this CAN-HAK report (and if you haven’t read it, feel free to read, like and comment ;)
But under the plane, it’s Hong-Kong, and more precisely Yuen Long 元朗
The dark area in the center is Tai Mo Shan Mountain 大帽山
Shatin 沙田 in the foreground, and Taipo大埔, in the background left. Only passengers at the right hand side windows could see the center of Hong-Kong From there, the route went due east to get way from the Chinese coast and then headed to TPE.
The standard announcement 30 minutes before landing was nearly unintelligible like all other announcement from the cockpit (the sound level of the P.A. system was very low). The same message is displayed on the IFE screen in English, in Chinese in traditional characters in use in Taiwan and Hong-Kong and in simplified characters in use in Mainland China and Singapore, and in Japanese, the latter version taking by far the most space on the screen.
Light came back in the cabin
The IFE screen displays a reminder of the various food products which cannot be imported by private individuals for sanitary reasons : basically any meat, raw or cooked, and any uncooked fruit and vegetable.
The illegal import of a durian (the spiny round shape on top of the luggage cart) could cost you a minimum fine of 3000 TWD, but there is no mention of a maximum.
These are all the sweets that I took before landing… in picture only.
Sunrise above the mountains to the right of the aircraft
Descent above the plain of northwest Taiwan
The ponds of Taoyuan illustrate two and a half centuries of agricultural development of this originally poorly fertile plain. The Taiwanese trace it from the digging of Saoli canal in 1741, with four ponds, serving six farms. The massive immigration from the mainland caused the multiplication of these ponds used for fish farming: there were close to 9,000 of them in the 70’s. The industrialization of the region caused the drainage of a majority of them, but there are still over 3,000. Aerators betray the ones which are still used for fish farming.
We have landed at Taipei Taoyuan International Airport
Heavy braking on the runway, and a longish wait on a taxiway there
…and again there behind a Tigerair aircraft.
There was no explanation, but I guess that the gate was not ready yet, for us and for the Tigerair plane.
My best shot of the row of parked Tigerair Taiwan A320s
Eva Air A321 parked remotely
I hope they still have some space for us ?
I could not take a better picture of this Nokscoot 777, due to the adverse lighting conditions ; I did not know this joint venture between Nok Air and Scoot.
Philippines Airlines A321
JAL 737 which would have needed more light in order for a sharp picture
Malaysian Airlines 737 in vintage livery
Air Macau A321
This Far Eastern Air Transport MD-80 is an old friend : see the report of flights flown with her here and there.
It was already six years ago… it was the time when Far Eastern Air was recovering from a three year bankruptcy and the safety of their old MD80 was a concern, compared to the more reassuring ATR72s of Transasia Airways. You probably know what happened next.
B-22810, spotted here in November 2012 in TSA, 20 months before she crashed while attempting to land in MZG in bad weather conditions, killing 48 out of 58 people on board
Back to this flight ; in this lineup of BR aircraft, which one is the odd character out ?
No, it is not this A321 in Hello Kitty livery, but the Hong Kong Airlines A330 just behind
There was a lot of room for multilingual welcome messages because we seemed to have arrived at the gate furthest away from the immigration.
It’s a long way to Taiwan
.. and to its immigration counters
I’ll be fair : the waiting time at immigration was zero, and I went through like a breeze. The policeman was kind enough to stamp my passport on an already crowded page, not wasting a blank page which could be useful later for a full page visa.
Going down to the luggage delivery
The priorities were respected and the first suitcases were already arriving ; mine appeared two minutes later.
It did not give me much time to look at this decoration in this room.
I now only needed to exchange a little cash (contrary to foreign exchange counters in many other airports, those of TPE and TSA have very reasonable commissions), and find out in my stored value Easycards which one had enough leftover credit to ride the semi-direct train to the airport.
The Taoyuan airport line opened after years of delay; it is brand new.
A FIDS in the subway car ; I used the on board wifi internet access to check the messages received during the flight.
There are multistandard ports for charging your cell phone or any other USB-compatible electronic device.
Last sight of TPE
This new subway line makes the 1818 Kuo-Kuang buses which I used before obsolete: at 160 TWD, the fare is marginally more expensive than the bus (but nevertheless very cheap compared to similar lines serving airports in many other countries) , but the comfort is much better and the ride is immune from traffic jams, like these caused by commuters driving to Taipei.
This former anabranch of the Danshui river is a floodplain: Taipei is at the convergence of three rivers concentrating the rainwater from an extensive drainage basin. There are no buildings there, only light sport facilities and parking lots which can withstand exceptional submersion with limited damage, vegetation and bicycle / pedestrian lanes.
The Xinbei (= New Taipei City) viaduct crosses this landscape at low elevation with very long spans designed to reduce the number of pillars which would hamper the flow of water and require deep foundations.
Arrival in a completely new section of the transportation hub of Taipei’s Central station. I saw a sign for in-town check-in, worth having a look on the way back.
The central station main building was built in 1989 in a traditional temple look, but looks old-fashioned now. The station is now considerably larger underground.
The mountains are never far away in Taipei.
Happy new year ; enjoy your flights in 2018 !
PS : this FR is long enough to allow me to skip a Taiwanese bonus. You will find many such tourist bonuses in my previous reports of flights to/from TPE and TSA; you are welcome to read, like and comment them ! ;)
Star Alliance Lounge
Paris - CDG
Taipei - TPE
The excessive distance between seat and windows is for me a killer error in the design of this cabin: in order to have a good view of the landscape, you must fold at least partly the tray table and stand up from your seat, which is inacceptable for me, and impossible in some portions of the flight. Full access to the aisle is highly valued by a majority of passengers but not by me: I actually never really feel the need to leave my seat on a long distance flight, in Economy or Business class. I disregard the fact that you need to sit in the center if you want to communicate with another travel (I always travel alone in J). In short, I simply dislike herringbone / reverse herringbone seat layouts, and value straight rows of seats, even at the expense of accessibility. In lie-flat position, the seat was long enough for me (my size does not make it a commendable feat^^)
Entertainment is the other weak point of this cabin. The screen is too far from the seat to be used in touchscreen mode comfortably, the game offering is limited and the non-interactive moving map is not only outdated but seldom provides the desired information when you want it. It did not really look at the audio/video offering.
With the handicap of this disappointing hard product, the soft product is what saves BR. The diversity of the meal offering and the possibility to book one in advance mean that you are more or less guaranteed to have a meal to your liking. The FAs are top class: I enjoyed their smiling courtesy and the balance between efficiency and discretion. My only regret is that the service protocol makes the meal last too long, and I degraded the meal rating slightly for that reason.
I did not expect much from a lounge in CDG1 due to the cramped and outdated architecture of this building, and I was not surprised. This lounge offers zero view on the tarmac and you can see the daylight only through ugly safety nets, giving the impression that passengers should be no means be aware of the presence of planes around. Maintenance of the facilities is inadequate: you can have a failed equipment which is identified as such because no repair can be instantaneous, but two sets of unserviceable power ports and two independent problems in the toilets total to obvious negligence. Actually, I did not have the impression that mentioning the failed power port to the welcome staff interested her. The buffet was decent for a late breakfast, but nothing more; The only adequate criterions were the internet access and the printed media.
It was not a peak travel day in CDG, far from it: accessibility and check-in had favorable conditions. But even on that low traffic day, the taxi drop off lane was saturated.
Zero waiting time at the immigration in TPE and at the luggage delivery, partly because there was a lot of walking to reach it. The semi-direct subway to the city center is a game changer: it is fast, comfortable, hardly more expensive than the buses and very cheap by international standards (like Taipei’s metro, in general). Furthermore, the ride on tall viaducts provides much more interesting views than in a bus or a taxi. I did not have time to check if there was internet access in the airport, but there was one in the train.
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